Green Grass and Death at Easter

Holy Week here at Olbalbal has taken us by storm, quite literally. On Monday the rains began, pouring down for twenty four hours without a break. Since Monday it has rained for a number of hours each afternoon. This sudden and very welcome change of seasons has been received with enthusiasm by the pastoral Maasai. People had begun to move in large numbers for lack of life giving grass and the entire area of Olbalbal with its’ wide plains had turned to dust. In some areas, very hard hit by the drought, weaker cattle had begun to die. The Maasai have no store houses of grain to tide them over bad times. The only thing they have to fall back on is their cattle, and the dry months had taken a heavy toll on the health of their animals. Most of the cattle had become very thin.

Yesterday afternoon I met an old man who had trekked two day across the plains from the North near the border of Kenya and Tanzania. Sharing a pot of tea, he described his very difficult journey across the plains with only a small gourd of milk to sustain him. The elder, OleKaruna, was on a sad journey, bringing very bad news to relatives at Olbalbal. Three days before his two small grandsons were pasturing their flock of goats on the plain and were caught out in the open when the deluge of rain hit. They sheltered, with their small herd of goats, under the one small tree out there on the savanna. Lightning struck, splitting the tree, killing both boys and five of the goats.

Oldupai Gorge, a few hours walk across the plains, is the place where the Leakey family has found many fossils of early man. There is a small building there housing some reproductions of their most significant discoveries and even many of their original finds. All these artifacts were found in a deep gorge running for some miles out onto the plains. This gorge, usually bone dry, no pun intended, was the place of another sad event last Monday. Many Maasai village populate the area to take advantage of the permanent water well at Oldupai. The rains came filling the gorge from wall to wall and three unlucky children, three small girls, were carried away as they dug in the sandy river bottom for water.

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